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Trusting our Deeper Knowing: On Cataclysms, Contemplation, and Circles of Trust

On October 10-12, 2008, Marcy Jackson and I (supported by our colleagues, Rick Jackson and Ann New), led a Circle of Trust retreat at the Fetzer Institute for fifteen people from the worlds of big business, financial services and philanthropy — many of them closely tied to Wall Street and all of them devoted to the common good. Our retreat began just one day after the Dow Jones had fallen nearly 40 percent below its record high, set only a year earlier.

Pertinent Posts from the On Being Blog

The former first lady talks about the responsibility of being raised in a privileged society.

An essay on frugality's new trendiness and old roots in Christian teaching.

James Wright's poem on the terror of hospital bills and refocusing on what we really value.

A search for stories about the relationship between children and grandparents revealed words of wisdom for current economic times.

Looking to a Jewish tradition found in Deuteronomy of absolving loans as a solution to current debts.

A panel discussion with three smart people exploring the moral and ethical aspects of the economic downturn.

Kate lends insight into the current economic crisis through her family history.

About the Image

"Walking to the Sky" — a 100-foot sculpture by Jonathan Borofsky that was originally installed at Rockefeller Center in 2004 before being moved to the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas a year later.

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I'm very excited about what is happening in these tough economic times. I welcome and celebrate the adversity. Out ancestors did some amazing things from which we have benefited and they did so under conditions which would be unthinkable to us today. We've no doubt become a generation with a generally week constitutions and these tough times will help to strengthen us.
I was in the automotive business and now I'm the real estate business; each tough industries today. Even though I no longer live the lifestyle I once had I feel more alive because I'm being challenged beyond belief. I'm learning things about myself and have a better sense of who I am. Although the benefits are intangible/abstract now, I know they will have more tangible benifits in the future. I am optimistic future generations will benefit from the adversity and challenges that will make us better and stronger. Not sure I would have been so optimistic otherwise.

I personally do not feel I or my family is in a moral or spiritual crisis, however, I think all of us in the United States are feeling the consequences of moral and spiritual depletion in recent years. I believe that humanity puts itself through a cycle of giving and taking with our fellow humans. We seem to be wired for both selfishness and selflessness and when one attribute becomes too dominate, we find ourselves wanting to self-correct. I do feel we are coming out of a time of extreme self-righteousness and finding humility to be necessary of all of us. When even the mighty take a fall, it becomes obvious that we need to pull back, take stock and really consider not only what will benefit each of us but more importantly what will be best for all of us.

I recently read a provocative book that discusses this very concept of human patterns from the beginning of time, "Yearnings: Embracing The Sacred Messiness of Life" by Rabbi Irwin Kula. I found Rabbi Kula's poetic and pragmatic words to be comforting and reassuring that we have and we will evolve again as the human race. Be it on the individual or the collective level, we need to sustain hope, as he describes it through the Hebrew lens. 'Hope' in Hebrew is 'tikvah' which finds it's root in the word tension. "It is the bow just before the arrow is released: poised, suspended, determined, but not there yet." We are at that moment in our human evolution. "Tikvah reminds us that hope itself is a paradox." says Rabbi Kula.

I feel like we are at that precipice of hope, yet we must heal our spirit to realize our hope actualized.

My youngest son, now 15, once asked me when he was very young, "What is the trick to life, Mommy?" At the time, I responded by saying that we always need to ask that keep seeking answers. If we recognize that we are both unique and special and yet insignificant all at the same time, we have a decent chance of surviving any crisis thrown our way.

Four years ago I was hired by a children's book publisher in New York City. The company is a household name. This was my second job designing and illustrating children's books. At both jobs, during healthy economic times, the staff were encouraged to see the company as one big family. I was always skeptical of this application of the word "family" to a group of people brought together somewhat randomly by a corporation. I mean I'm not naive: there's a fiscal benefit to convincing your employees to work for the company as if they were working for their own flesh and blood. But I fought my cynicism thinking, "I see these people every day. I want to nurture, love, and grow with them as if they were family. Wouldn't our lives be better if everyone gave themselves over to this? If we took time out to share and listen to and be kind to people at work as if they were indeed family?" My resistance was somewhat justified. While I was at my first publishing job, terrorists knocked down the twin towers. Following 9/11 my company brought in therapists to help us cope. Then in the subsequent economic downturn, executed a major downsizing sending a mixed message: it became abundantly clear that the fiscal health of the company always takes priority over the well being of the socalled family. Miraculously, I was spared. But I watched, with much discomfort, as the most senior members of my "family" changed the lives of the less senior members of my "family" forever. My colleagues were asked to pack up their desks. They were escorted to the door. Their boxes were searched for company property. They were replaced, almost immediately, by younger people willing to work for much lower salaries. Last November, weeks after delivering my second child, I returned to work to find a certain familiar smell in the air. Layoffs were imminent. My boss, who I had come to see as a friend, was suddenly not making eye contact with me. It looked like I was going to be kicked out of the family. And, indeed, I was. Now unemployed, with more spare time to listen to your show and think about what this recession means, I've been thinking again about that idea of the corporate family. Particularly, the emotional toll it must be taking on those of us who were cut off suddenly from the life and people they came to know, trust and sometimes even love. I have a strong urge to reach out to the people I work with, to be my most authentic self at work. But also a strong instinct to protect myself and see corporate life for what it is: an economic deal that can go south in a moment. How do we avoid applying these cold economic metaphors to our relationships with our work colleagues and friends, our bosses, past, present and future? How do we fight the bitterness, the powerlessness, we feel after a layoff? How do we return to our work with an expansive, open spirit ready to share our lives with new people and contribute to the group in a good way? To close up, contract, withdraw from people you share so much of your life with seems like a bit of a death. But it's so normal to recoil when struck. I've always loved this poem by Rumi about expansion and contraction being the very thing that keeps us alive: breathing. I'll keep it in mind as I turn toward my new work, new life, new family., whatever that may be. Your grief for what you've lost lifts a mirror up to where you're bravely working. Expecting the worst, you look, and instead, here's the joyful face you've been longing to see. Your hand opens and closes, and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contraction and expansion, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings. --Rumi

Please see the attached and feel free to use any of it in your broadcast. I am an emotional intelligence practitioner (some say I am the pioneer). I have always felt like emotion is the way the divine speaks to us and am passionate about "making the world safe for emotion". As you will see in the quotes and the narrative in the attached eBook, my instincts tell me that this is the time that Charles Darwin predicted, "When the human species has learned to harness the power of emotion, we will be ready to take the next evolutionary step". Personally, what has happened to the economy has been devastating to my life both personally and professionally. However, after a day or two of shock last fall I reminded myself that I knew why I was feeling as I did, and I felt morally compelled to share that information. So I sat down and started writing the attached. What you will find is still a draft and I think that parts of it could be meaningful to your listeners. Please take what you want from it; I do not require citation or other recognition. However, if you have any suggestions for improvement I would welcome them.

Thanks for all the good work you do!

Kate Cannon

p.s. I would answer the last question, "who will we be for each other?" with the response, "whole".

I have collected my thoughts, and a verse, about the matter here:

I am reminded of the fable about the tortoise and the hare. It is best to take care and not jackrabbit around when it comes to your finances and life in general. Slow and steady wins the race.
It is not a coincidence that it is called "playing the market". It is not a level playing field. The ones "in the know" need the ones who are "not in know" to make money.

Three years ago, my family of four pulled up roots and moved across the country from Northern Kentucky to Salt Lake City, Utah. In hindsight, it was the worst possible time to have been in the market for a house. We sold our house in a relatively depressed market and had to turn around and purchase a house in an exploding market. We ended up buying practically the same house for twice the mortgage.

The experience was bewildering. We are a one income family but my husband's employment as an engineer should have put us firmly in the upper middle class. We found ourselves in a modest home scrambling to make ends meet. I gave up my role as a stay at home mom so I could work and make up our financial shortcomings.

Meanwhile, the people around us seemed to be flush with cash. Houses were enormous and the prices were astronomical. It seemed everyone was outfitted with a new SUV. Our summer camping outings were dwarfed by our peers vacations to Hawaii and Europe. I have to admit we spent a lot of time wondering what they had that we didn't. What were we missing? What were we doing wrong?

This current economic meltdown has in some ways brought some sense into the world for us. No wonder, we exclaim! The stories of unethical lending are atrocious. We even heard of a young couple on a salary of $40K purchasing a mortgage of $600K! Things are not always as they appear on the surface. The danger of making personal decisions based upon popular culture, fads, and peer pressure has become glaringly obvious for us. We have found a new sense of contentment with our small simple house and camp-out vacations.

The melt down has brought the sins of the past decade into the light. As frightening and unsettling as the current economic downturn is, it is also liberating. People's financial lives are suddenly out on the table. Where as before it was a race to see who could accumulate the most wealth, now people seem to be placing more value on living with less. Suddenly it is hip to be frugal! Living in a modest house isn't the "shameful" experience it was just a few years ago. And I am not exaggerating when I say that living modestly during the past few years brought a certain amount of shame. We weren't keeping up with the Jones's and it showed.

You hear older generations state that they grew up very poor but they never realized how poor they were. Now, we feel poor when we actually have more material and financial wealth than ever before! Perception is everything and one of the fruits of the current crisis is a giant perception shift. We are gifted beyond our wildest dreams and finally our culture is putting the spotlight on those gifts we have overlooked for so long. My Mother used to say that if you take your blessings for granted you might as well not have them at all. I believe the financial boom brought a certain dehumanizing poverty to the United States.

Personally, this economic crisis has caused me to focus on what really matters to me. I have a new appreciation for my family and a new motivation to be present in every moment and to relish the people in my life. As a Christian, I seek to see God in every person and every situation I encounter. I yearn to find the gifts that are hidden in the challenges of our time.

I had the privilege of working in several social work positions for approximately years before 911. The last one was with an agency and under a supervisor who not only allowed me to grow professionally in the manner that I wanted to do; but, who also saw the importance that ethics and moral professional behavior had in how I acted in my professional role. After searching and being budgeted out of several social work position following this particular position, it became clear to me that the frantic search for well paying and professional jobs in this field were getting scarcer all the time. I must say that following 911 the agency I worked for received a contract that allowed me the privilege of counseling residents in the area that my office was located and that I came across many clients who had family members working in security during 911. The stories told of how the clients' were so proud of how these workers handled their tasks both ethically and morally lead me to decide, at that time, that when I retired and could handle a lower salary, I too would go into the security field.

Well, it finally occurred to me that the decision to "retire" came earlier as I found it increasingly difficult to continue to work in the social work field as workers had to become increasingly callous and unaware (?) of just how much ethical and moral behavior needed to be put aside in order to maintain their jobs over others looking to do the same work. I simply could not keep up with that pace; and, so in my mid 50's, just about two years ago, I left the social work field to go into security guard work. Almost everyone I know has repeatedly commented to me how much more relaxed I am because they see that I can present myself both morally and ethically to the world in the way that I need to do so. The challenge is the large salary cut I have incurred with this job change; but, well worth it as I can work in a more ethical and moral way.

But, how did I manage to cope with the budget juggling I did and continue to do now....especially as the cost of everything increases so much and retirement money is flying out the window. ONly with the help of an especially strong synagogue community and friends and family who contiinually offer their encouragement with words and actions that somehow help me to overcome each monthly/daily budget challenge that occurs....

A specific examkple of my synagogue community's assistance. I am particularly connected to this community and its women's Rosh Chodesh group and members. The group schedules an annual Spring retreat which has always been so very important for me to attend; and, which occurred last yearonly a very few weeks after I was hired on my new job and just beginning to truly feel the effects of the lower salary cut. I requested financial assistance from the Rabbi to attend this retreat (which I truly would not have been able to do otherwise at that time without such help); and , with no hesitation it was readily offered. No question(s) in my mind....this is what community is all about; and, while always important, all the moreso during these challenging/economic crisis times.

This is surely the type of ethical and moral actions that I think I had done previously to help others when I could...honestly for myself and I must say because I had hoped to believe that such behavior would come in my direction should the day/s come that I would need it. Those days did and continue to come....and I am so very pleased and grateful to say...what goes around comes around and times....and I am now privileged to see this happening in my own life.

As several of your effects of the current economic crisis program have been emphasizing over the weeks....I have heard several of your speakers elude to the growing emergency of communities, etc. out of need. Overall, I have been privileged to see this coming to fruition in my own life at this time....I don't know how I could be surviving this economic crisis in my life without it and I am eternally grateful.

For the last 10 years I have been a commercial real estate lender at a commercial bank. Throughout that period I have worked with numerous clients to sell the bank's loans and financial services based upon the promise of the bank being a good financial "partner" that was interested in a long term business relationship with the clients and their businesses. Implicit in the relationship model is a promise to be financially supportive of clients in time need --- such as this financial crisis. Many clients have come to the bank because they trusted in me. However, due to major financial losses being suffered by the bank at this time, neither senior management nor the regulatory environment allows a positive relationship with clients, even with clients that are meeting all of their financial obligations to the bank. I personally feel betrayed by my employer who advertised as a "Strong Partner" for local businesses. The attitude of the bank makes additional lending very difficult and strains the relationships I have developed at the request of the bank. I find the handling of this financial crisis by both the government and my employer quite poor. I am personally being put in a difficult position having sold the bank as a supportive financial partner who would "take care of good clients" when they needed us. Unfortunately, taking care of clients is no longer a goal of the bank. This has created a moral dilemma for me when clients ask about the bank and its attitude towards new or renewed loans. Instead of taking care of clients we are being forced to deny credit and restrict lending to all clients. This is not the relationship based lending concept we sold to clients.

You have caught me today, walking in my mucky barnyard boots among newborn lambs, feeding my leftover recipe tests to a sow named Sally, and heading over to an elementary school to help build a vegetable garden. You have caught me today, cooking and writing and piecing together a living as a food writer on a small New England island, more than a year gone by since I left my stressful job as chief Editor of a national magazine and my highly mortgaged New York suburban life. You have caught me in a new and happier world, where I feel—at last—a sense of community for which I didn’t know I was longing.

I guess I am an early adopter or just a good trend-spotter from all those years in the magazine world, but my own personal spiritual and moral crisis conveniently arrived a little ahead of the economic crisis. In truth, it didn’t just arrive, it erupted—in the form of an addiction I’d not wish on anyone. And yet, for the grace it’s brought me, I’d wish it on everyone. Oddly enough, now that I’ve begun to stop navel -gazing and I look around at the rest of the world’s fears and addictions, I see that my own crisis was just a tremor before the quake, a ripple from the storm surge of fear and loss now washing over us all.

I have to laugh at myself, taking so long to figure out it wasn’t just me—that we’re all connected, that the very most tangible evidence of flourishing spirituality is connectedness. And that if I’m ill, my neighbor’s ill. Just imagine a whole world of sickly folks, everyone decaying and hollowed out by misguided materialism and ego-driven, soul-surpressing pursuits. You don’t have to imagine, we are there. Billions of little shattered pieces.

For me, healing began when I connected not just to other people, but to myself again. I had to stop spinning, be still, and listen to my heart. How is that possible? The heart doesn’t exactly have an instruction manual. And yet, by simply abandoning my complete reliance on my ego, I found my own true desires welling up and guiding me to a new place. In my case, not just a new spiritual place, but a new physical place.

Slowly, I’ve come to realize that I came to this place, this island, to heal the deep chasm that had opened wide between my love of food and cooking and the place where it all starts. And slowly I’ve come to realize that my disconnect with the natural world -- with the land -- wasn’t just my own personal cross to bear, but also a manifestation of this modern blight, this malaise of nearly epidemic proportions. And I have realized that what I really wanted, what everyone wants, is to be part of a community, one where people freely share their skills and knowledge, and even material goods (and yes, overgrown zucchini), with the common belief that only by giving something away can you truly keep it.

In my new (physical) life, I live in communion with the people and animals and land around me. In my new spiritual life, I live—or try to live—in communion with the Holy Spirit within me. But really, they are one in the same.

Hello Peoples!! I love technology when it allows us to use our potential to Jump Spiritual Obstacles in a single bound!
It may be premature, but the economic, health care, climate, equality and other events have produced that "perfect storm" that may test the human condition and force us to live together or perish. The poems I shall try to send are original and a product of my journey through abuse as a child, rebellion and the resulting consequences, depression, addiction, recovery as well as the psychic transformation that has occurred as a result of this journey/path. I have practiced solitude and introspective writing and early morning reading since I entered a 12 Step program ten years ago. I have had near-death as well as "spiritual experiences" (I lived on a farm on the eastern shore of Maryland that had a rich history of Indian as well as the underground railroad during slavery which tended to make camping on the shoreline an experience to remember.) I have been blessed to be able to write and do public readings of my poetry in the Northern Virginia area and enjoy doing private readings over tea or coffee. The 300-plus pieces I have written over the last ten years have coalesced into a record of what I have determined to be akin to channeled writing. They are a product of the reading and meditation that I have pursued in the quiet hours between 3 and 6 a.m. I shall now try to send a sample! Wish me luck! I can be reached at 703-217-7253 Bye, Bye! F.Greg Wright Falls Church, Va. 22042

i do not view this economic down turn as a crisis at all, in fact i think of it as a breath of fresh air. for years i have felt that some people have putting an emphasis on materialism. A slow down would do some folks good. my husband and i both recently seperated from the military, so to us community isnt something we've had much of considering we're never in one location for more than a couple of years. we try to teach our kids less is more. it might be nice to have more new "stuff" in our lives, but at the end of the day that stuff wont create genuine joy and fulfillment. it's all in how you look at it really, it may not be an easy adjustment for all but nothing worth while is easy.

I do not think one can answer the question "Who will we be for each other?" until we answer the question "Who am I?". Both individually and collectively how we define ourselves is essential to how we respond to events in our lives and how we treat each other. With the mystics of all major religions, I believe that we are spiritual beings who have form as opposed to forms who have a spiritual aspect. Our essential nature is eternal and transcends any other identity we take on as we individuate. We so readily define and identify ourselves by age, gender, accomplishments, education, membership, intelligence, possessions, economic wealth, the roles we play, health, athletic prowess, appearance and on. When any of these are challenged or taken away, it is a crisis. It is a spiritual crisis first and secondly may be a moral crisis. It is a crisis of identity. If we define ourselves as spiritual beings, issues of trust, responsibility, community, mutuality, and virtue are addressed first spiritually.

A crisis of metastatic breats cancer, which affects both health and finances (since my investmenst are now worth half of what they used to be and insurance costs are high), has reassured me that who we are spiritually is what matters most. I have found great sustenance in both my practice of contemplative prayer and the insights of a book by Kathleen Singh, The Grace in Dying.

Her experience with hospice patients has led her to beleive that those who are dying are forced to go through the same process as those who are seriously pursuing the path of enlightenment through spiritual disciplines. Those who are dying are forced to let go of all by which they have defined themselves. What is left in the dying process is their essential nature, their spirit, which is transpersonal. Those seeking enlightenment, union with God, are likewise opening themselves to higher levels of consciousness that transcend the personal and consequently letting go of old ways of defining who they are.

When we as persons or communities or nations define ourselves by our personas, egos, myths and differences instead of our essential beings, a crisis will knock us of our feet. When grounded in our essential being, we have the strength of a mountain which is changeless and calm no matter what weather is raging. This does not mean there are not practical things to be done, but we can remain calm and focused. We might ask ourselves if such an economic crisis would have happened if more were truly grounded in our spiritual being instead of in greed, deceit and personal gain. Perhaps we as a nation have dropped to the lowest common denominator in our spiritual life.

I hope my children and grandchildren will ask "Who am I' and learn to define themselves by their spiritual natures, not by their physical forms or achievements. Then they will be for themselves and for each other what is needed for our mutual benefit.

First, by way of introduction, I am the board chair of a not for profit group called "Seeing Things Whole". Bob Wahlstedt, is a colleague of mine on the board and a friend of Speaking of Faith. I know that Bob has mentioned us to Krista, but I want to take the opportunity to say a few words about what we are doing because I think that it is particularly important at this time.

As our vision statement says, "we envision a world made better through organizations whose lives and performance are informed as much by faith and moral reasoning as by the press of economic reality". I heard similar words from Vigan Guroian in a recent interview. At our best, we collaborate with organizations and their leaders to see their work and their challenges in a larger context of meaning and possibility. We currently engage 12 organizations, 6 in the Twin Cities and 6 in the Boston area, where organizations hold each other in trust around the real world challenges facing each organization. We try to create a space where a conversation of moral reasoning and business challenge can be laid side by side, each informing the other in the process. In addition to the obvious learning by the participating organizationas, we then partner with business schools, theological schools and religious communities to explore the theological and economic implications of seeking to more intentionally live in this intersection of faith and organizational life.

I do believe that we are in the midst of both a moral and spiritual crisis. In order to emerge from this malaise, we will need to develop a new sense of trust in organizations (particularly government & businesses). This means "business as usual" must change. We need organizational leaders to lead from virtue, we need organizations that are focussed on multiple bottom lines, we need college graduates who are learning a way of "thinking broadly", and we need religious congregations that are exploring this intersection of faith and economic reality to support congregants in the work world in which they live.

So what are we doing for each other to bring this about? I've already mentioned the roundtables. In addition, a group of colleagues at The University of St. Thomas are preparing a series of case studies where moral imagination intersects real world issues. Both St Thomas & Augsburg College are laying liberal arts, faith and business side by side in courses such as faith and entrepreneurship and a capstone course on faith and business. Augsburg College is integrating the "seeing things whole " model into it's keystone course in the Master of Arts in Leadership program. We are working closely with the United Church of Christ in Norwell, MA and the Incarnation Lutheran Church in the Twin Cities to develop a new model of holding up the ministry of the laity.

There is more to say, but I think that I have made this email long enough. We are a very limited budget organization doing as much as we can during this crisis to in some small way, help us to begin to "repossess virtue" which this country (and the world) so badly need.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our work with you.

Best regards,
Ed Mosel

I view this economic moment as an opportunity for growth. I like to think of this country as being very young and this period as a growth spurt we are having. In broad terms, as humans, we are growing into adults - right now we are young and learning lessons so that we might grow and develop into full spiritual beings who recognize we are all connected.

Last summer, my wife and I (we are one of the 18,000 same-sex couples who got married in CA and are waiting in limbo for the courts to decide the status of our marriage) discovered a passion for RV traveling. We decided that we wanted to buy our own motor home, and then the economy turned. We kept hearing reports of people not spending and even rich people being embarrassed and cutting spending. We choose not to live inside this story of fear. In January 2009, we paid cash for a new motor home. We are now traveling with our dog and loving the experience. We get to enjoy the beauty of this country. We spend money at local businesses on fuel, groceries, meals and souvenirs. The best part of our travel - the part that got us hooked in the first place - is connecting with people. We share our travel stories, help each other with concerns about our vehicles, trade tips on what to see and road conditions along the way. Our favorite part is connecting with strangers. It's not so much what we say; it's the feeling of being related and connected to each other.

I am feeling a dual mixture of indiffrence and sadness in this current economic downturn. I am going to be laid off next month from a job that I had for almost two years where the realtionships that I had with my co-workers and management have grown into a second family. You see, despite having very distant relatives in the same city that I live in. My core local family memmbers are my friends, neighbors, and co-workers who are more understanding of who I am and how I live besides my biological family who live somewhere else.

I am equally challenged by finding a new job because I have already made major decisions over what no longer desire and where I choose to end up. This is a professional crossroad that I started to take greater insight in since I am very deeply spiritual person who lives out God's purpose on an ongoing baisis. I don't belong to a particular church since leaving my former church several years earlier because I outgrew it. In other words, seeking out and/or belonging to another church is a very low priority that I don't visualize ever becoming dominant again for me.

Economic downturns with people that I know have been a somewhat humbling experince because no one is immune from being faced with a layoff notice. It doesn't matter if you are a retail sales associate, such as myself, or a corporate executive, comapnies are downsizing all over. I see this economic moment as a relfection of living through the last several recessions, where despite periods of uncertiancy, I used God's faith to pull me through the deepest caverns into developing new ways to imporve myself by changing careers and returning to school. I am very blessed to have numerous options because of my educational background which ensues me that I don't have to be stuck in retail for the remainder of my working life.

This economic downturn came at a unique time for me in my life. A few years ago I found out that I would not be receiving the money and property that I had spent most of my life working for in my families buisness. This at first had a devastating effect on me. I went from living as a privileged rich person to being an unemployed poor person in one day. After working for a while as an installer of audio/video and computer systems the company I was working for went out of buisness. I then attenmpted to get another job but was frustrated to find that noone seemed to want to hire a 50 year old man with a strange resume. I then decided to make a deal with God. I had worked in my youth as a minister and believed that if I gave I would receive. so I made a deal to give whatever any poor person that I saw on the street asked me for. I also volunteered at a local methadone clinic and was eventually able to run a weekly Bible study group there. In the meantime I took whatever recommendations people gave me that rang true. I was soon receiving my SSI disability and food stamps, and while it wasn't enough to eat for more than 10 days a month or pay my rent I never was hungry and never missed a rent payment. If I needed money my phone would ring and someone who had met me as a result of my working as an installer would ask me to design and install a television or computer system in their home.
It has been four years since I "retired". I have been able to install a state of the art recording system in my home so I could pursue my first love, music. I've received a scholarship to a local gym, so each morning I can excercise. I then spend an hour at the clinic taking part in the group therapy program. From there I go home, practice flutes and saxophones for about 4 hours and then work on my recordings. I hope to have a CD ready for release by the end of the year. By giving up on the idea that I would ever own a car or a home, and by realizing that the accumilation of things was not the most important fact to be concerned with while I am living this life, I became more content with my situation than I have been at almost any other point in my life. There are things that I would prefer to change about my situation, I don't like living alone for instance, but I know if I am patient and continue being grateful to God for the life I do have, whatever is best for me will happen.

I do not experience this time/moment as a crisis, but simply as one of inner/ conscious growth for all - individually and collectively. We are not just human beings.....we are humans being. Should you be thinking of economy you are imagining the outside/physical realms which are always a manifestation of what one chooses to think about most of the time.....cause and effect. Life is and inside job, so if we don't go within, we go without.

I believe that the most important thing man is currently (since time began)re-cognizing is that he will always be in the midst (now) of becoming that which he/she has always been. The wonderful, simple thing is that we each become exactly what we think about and believe ourselves to be at the moment, as It should be.

An eternal change/growth in conscious awareness (paradym) is happening globally at a pace today in the 21st century that equals the growth and speed/expansion that is simultaneously happening on a universal scale. In simple terms, we as a species are sharing a form of mental/spiritual communication in 2009 that has never occurred before.....but for the first time we're consciously aware of It on a wider scope/togetherness. Not the easiest to put into words.

As we re-cognize our light I believe it is important to feel that we are always beginning, always and in always brand new.....never staying in the past and keeping in 'Mind' that not judging oneself or another is one of the most enjoyable ways to spend now. Joy.

Life is an inside job.....if you don't go within, you go without.

I find myself questioning how to get by on almost a daily basis. My goals for me and my family have changed. This isn't always easy to swallow, but I have learned how to live with less "stuff" that doesn't have meaning anyways. I have lowered my expectations and taken the time to see all the wonderful things I do have in my life. Life has changed, but in so many ways as strange as it seems, it has been for the better. I don't take anything for granted anymore. The change in our family income has been extremely straining. The stress is very wearing on our family.I have learned to set a better budget out of this matter. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on life and have realized that we can get by with so much less than before and still be happy. I don't know anyone who is not struggling in some way and people seem to be coming together more and giving more time to voluntarily help others out. I appreciate everything I have on a different level then I did before. We have found new ways of stretching the dollar out and have the necessities we need to get by. I now see everything as a gift or blessing and know things could be much worse than they are.

one nation divisible

there’s an old story about God & a peasant.
God says: “I can take one eye from you
& one eye from your neighbor
or two eyes from both of you.
which do you choose?”

“take both eyes from each, please. then my neighbor
will be blind.”

in a 1960 social studies class, Mr. Paterna
taught why America would never be defeated:
“however fiercely our politicians battle in an election,
they come together to honor the results
to work together for the good of the country.”

we are become the un-united states,
so shortly ago, the greatest power in the world.

there was a time, when politics was
not a disfunctional blood sport & congress
served as a parliament of shared democracy.

the wisest judgment comes from our
most enlightened president:
“a house divided against itself
cannot stand.”

» Are you experiencing this economic moment as a moral or spiritual crisis as well?

Contrarily I am experiencing this economic moment as the most spiritually lucid time of my life. In fact, I am just now emerging from a period of financial, emotional and physical wreckage that was caused by moral and spiritual crisis. I’m emerging strongly at this point but I’m starting over in the arenas of my life where I finally have regained some of what I’d lost: a well suited career position, a car of my own, advanced stages of fitness for my personal benchmarks and a better sense of understanding to name just a few. It was an unsolicited bout of spirituality that lured me in a direction that I, as I got stronger, began to run towards. I’ll pause here to make the important distinction between spirituality and religion. I’m more of a student than a parishioner. Raised Roman Catholic in typical Sunday school fashion, at age of 39 I am not a religious man. But spirituality is a powerful and constant presence for me, suddenly. So I pause often to help bear the load of this sort of encroaching awareness. It can be overwhelming at times. It has been for me. I share the experience with few others. For me it took time and effort to embrace so I hold it pretty closely, maybe guarding it a bit.

So you might understand that from my vantage point I best see the economic downturn as a leveling of the playing field. I lost everything two years ago by way of divorce and substance abuse. Now that my introspective, strategic and diligent work is producing positive results I can stoically observe the turn of events and react accordingly. I’m over the pain everyone is going through right now and I’m much stronger for it. I have very strong foundations to rebuild upon and I sincerely believe that these assets place me in a position of advantage over others now reeling from the pain of loss.

» What qualities of human nature do you want to cultivate in yourself or your children?

I am a father of a beautiful six year boy named Eric whom I share joint custody of with my ex-wife. This arrangement provides me full time with my son two up to sometimes four days each week. The quality of fatherhood is one that I cultivate and maintain in myself throughout my struggle and is an immeasurable force in my recovery that is anchored in spirituality.
I recently did an hour guest spot in his kindergarten class where I wove a tale of gifts bestowed by true sincerity. (All based upon a true NY experience that Eric and I had when a series of cool little events and coincidences led up to meeting Dave Grohl and family at the playground in Madison Square Park. Eric and I had been listening to the Foo Fighters earlier that day as we got ready to head in to the city.) I had one of the gifts from the greatness of that day, a set of children’s bongos, in my hand and I displayed them as I riffed this story show and tell style. That day I shared with the entire class, all my little friends who let me take my shoes off to get comfortable, the quality I most cultivate in my son: Sincerity.

I think we have gotten into this financial mess because of a moral crisis. This is where the path of greed has brought us. Mortgage companies with predatory lending, people who thought they deserved mansions when they couldnt afford them, etc. I think this new depression is a blessing. It is making people learn how to live on less, and the earth will certainly thank us for that. It is a return to old values. I have seen people being more gentle with each other in New York than ever before, because everyone is hurting.

These time remind me of my favorite scripture
"The house of the wise is the house of mourning, the house of fools is the house of mirth."

We have been living int he wrong house for a long time, now we will have to move to the right one. It will be uncomfortable, but in the end, it is what is best.

Many think that economic indicators are the beginning or source of cultural trends, but, I believe, in fact, they are one of the outermost symptons. Our economic crisis is a system gone way out of balance. Corporate greed and excessive financial decisions are not economic trends, but the results of a culture of self-benefit and self-advancement at any and anyone's expense.

To attribute these qualities to corporate America alone is hugely hypocritical. Our humor, our politics, our entertainment, our marriages, our civil rights, even our educational systems have focused on personal gain and success largely at the expense and defacement of others. This has snowballed in the last two decades, but it is nothing that new.

To blame past administrations is likewise hypocritical. There is always some direction in which to point fingers, but the truth is that throughout all of human history, including American history, those in the position of power have generally taken advantage of the weak. When workers were abused, we united to make unions. When unions became corrupt, an administration moved towards deregulation. When the internet hit and we became a global ecomony, deregulation had a hay day. We so quickly became a culture of excess it is a wonder the economy survived the nineties, which it almost didn't.

We can play the blame game back to Adam and Eve. The fact is, when a society is based on excess and self gain, disaster is ineveitable. No, Mr. President, you did not inherit this mess. We created the mess, and if there are to be solutions, we must all take responsibility.

As Charles Osgood said, it is not the systems that are bad. It is that we are always trying to beat the systems. From human trafficking to national power plays, the world is out of balance. Until we learn to live with a conscious of the whole, as families, as communities, as nations and as a global family, we will continue the process of action and reaction until it snowballs to the next crisis.

On almost every level I can think of, this time is a great opportunity for us to look at things in a new light. But unless those eyes turn out of ourselves, as eyes are made to do, to see others, turning inwardly only to examine the quality of our love, then we are destined to reach this point.


One of my favorite cartoons from The New Yorker shows two mice with two exercise wheels side by side. One mouse is running frantically around his, while the other, sitting still on the edge of the wheel, says, “I had an epiphany.”

The cartoon speaks to the territory I deal with all the time in my work as a psychotherapist specializing in issues of life balance: the elusive change of mind and heart that enables a person to shift from running endlessly on the treadmill of our culturally-sanctioned 24/7 way of life, to being able to slow down, or–dare I say it–even to stop every now and then.

I’ve spent the last 15 years helping women intentionally slow their pace in order to experience less stress and more depth and meaning in their everyday lives. In a culture that so highly values speed and efficiency, that’s a humbling proposition, in my own life as well as that of my clients and the women in my groups. However, the task becomes much easier when certain life circumstances come into play. Circumstances such as:
•death of a loved one
•serious illness
•job loss
•some other major life crisis

Difficult life events tend to throw people off the treadmill, forcing them to slow down. Often, this downshifting results in asking themselves tough questions, reevaluating their priorities and ultimately (though certainly not without pain), making significant positive changes in how they live their lives.

The experience of a client of mine whom I’ll call “Louise” is a good example of a difficult event leading to a major, positive life reorientation. A mother of two who worked full-time, the event that shifted Louise’s own life dramatically happened to someone she was close to. Louise had worked hard for fifteen years at a job in sales which, she said, “sucked the life right out of me.” Looking back at her life then, she described it as “totally externally-focused, driven, and very out of control.” During that time, one of Louise’s friends was in a very severe car accident. It was unclear whether she would survive. During one of the first nights that her friend was in the hospital, Louise slept only intermittently, thinking and dreaming about her and her family for what seemed like most of the night. She said, “Toward morning, just as I was awakening, I had this thought about my friend: ’Even if her life is over now, she can know that she has done a great job as a mother.’ Then all of a sudden I applied that thought to myself, and I remember the clutching feeling in my chest. It was a visceral reaction as I thought: ’If I were to die tomorrow, that couldn’t be said about me.’” She saw that she had been run so ragged by her job that she wasn’t “living her values,” which to her meant putting her children first. The incongruity between what she believed in and how she was living was so stark and jolting to her in that moment that she had to act.
“I gave my notice to a job that I’d had for fifteen years, I didn’t go for options, I didn’t think about how else I might resolve this. It was completely: I’ve got to stop this freight train, and get off.”

The next several months were hard in a different way for Louise. She was at home and spending much more time with her children, but she still felt driven and could not settle down. “I was sewing pillow-covers with a vengeance! I felt enormous stress, but now most of it was self-generated.” Eventually, in an effort to address the stress she was feeling both physically and emotionally, Louise attended a weekend retreat that included some guided visualization. At first, she had trouble focusing her attention inwardly, but on one of the “inner journeys,” she found herself able to truly go inside, and her inner world opened up. She went in her mind’s eye back to her childhood home, and re-contacted a deep sense of loneliness that had been with her often as a child. She realized that in her adult life, the “freight train” energy that caused her so much stress was fueled in part by trying to avoid the old feeling of discomfort with loneliness from her childhood. This awareness helped her with the changes she wanted to make. Later she said, “I had lived my life for so long in an outer fashion, and I was so out of synch and so screwed up. I had some sense that I needed to look inside, but it was so hard. I didn’t know how to do it.”

Her weekend retreat was the beginning of an inner exploration that led Louise to one of my groups, and eventually, as her children got older, to an entirely new career that connects back to that early-morning moment that affected her so profoundly: she teaches, trains and writes about parenting skills. She says, “What I’m doing now uses all of who I am: my professional experience, my skill, my education. And it’s married to my passion. So it’s very powerful for me. And now, because what I’m doing is inner-driven, there’s an energy and an authenticity about it that keeps me going.”

I see a striking parallel between this process of personal transformation and the societal shift we are experiencing with the economic downturn.

We are in crisis.
We have been thrown off the treadmill.
We have an enormous opportunity to ask tough questions and reevaluate our priorities. What is sustainable growth? How much is enough? What is real wealth? How do we go forward from here?

Australian environmental business expert Paul Gilding has called this time, when we have hit the wall both economically and ecologically, “The Great Disruption.” Thomas Friedman of the New York Times quotes Gilding: “We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder. No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” (Thomas L. Friedman; The New York Times; Opinion; March 9, 2009.)

This is precisely what so many of us are doing in our daily lives: pushing our wonderful systems–our bodies and minds–to the breaking point with over-crammed schedules, incessant distraction and interruption, and non-stop busyness. Because the laws of physics and biology still apply, some of us do reach the breaking point. And it is there that transformation often begins.

As a psychotherapist, when I see day after day of headlines about layoffs, rising homelessness, and sinking stock values, I take heart from having witnessed so many individuals who have reached the breaking point and from there, fashioned new lives that are slower and more balanced, healthier, richer with meaning and purpose, and more conducive to happiness. My hope is that the economic crisis can lead us, collectively, along a similar path.


Yes, I see this as a moral crisis. The financial piece is huge, but as a teacher who preaches, "work hard, do your best and you will succeed," my world has done a 180. . What do we say to our children who see their parents laid off. Parents who have worked hard, been honest, done their best. What do we say to children who ask, "Why should I work hard? Look what happened to my dad.

This financial crisis has changed my view of the world, and now I need a new message, and I'm not sure what it will be.

And to make matters worse, this is my generation that did this. My generation, the old hippies of Woodstock, the peace generation whose presidents were Clinton and Bush, and who's business leaders have cheated the world for their own gain, no matter the cost to others.

Right now it's the cheaters who are winning. . .

But then, look at the history of the world, there have been worse situations, crueler tyrants and bigger tragedies. We will pull through this, but I believe the world order will be altered. Great civilizations have come and gone. Now we need to make it a great world civilization. We are all in this together.

In September, within two weeks of each other, I lost my job and my home and now live in my vehicle. It has definately been a spiritual crisis for me and I have questioned other people's morals. Somehow I feel as though I have failed God and this is my punishment. I have no family and feel so absolutely alone. I have always been a person to be there for others as much as I possibly could. You see, since I have no family I always considered my friends to be my family. And since loosing my home, I don't get calls from my friends anymore. I asked someone last week, who hasn't talked to me, why. She said that no one wants to talk to me any longer because they believe I will ask for things. I had to somehow explain to her that my intelligence didn't get evicted along with me. It hurt so much, I can't put it into words. I'm so lonely and have no one to turn to. I pray and things seem to get worse. I told someone that having my nightly entertainment be watching the rats running around the McDonald's dumpsters does not make you feel that there is any hope. It feels so weird after being such a good friend to others to have no one. I hope I do not loose that good quality. I just don't feel there are many communities out there anymore. I want more than anything to feel as though I matter and can make a difference. I grew up in a wealthy home and now have nothing and no one. I pray that the world grows up and starts to love each other. Thank you.

greeting ms tippet no, i am not seeing this economic downturn as a spiritual or moral bankruptcy in my life. i have a strong belief system that gets me through the tough parts in life. but i can see that in some people it is effecting them in adverse ways, such as stress, worry, etc. if you have a strong basic concept of beliefs in God, faith, spirituality , you should not have to alter your core values for the changes in life that will eventually come to you. well, looking at the news in print form or online, their would not be many people i would want my children to emulate. that said my wife and i have tried to instill the values of Jesus`s second command, that is to help others. you have to do this by leading in small ways, such as helping out at church carnivals,by cleaning tables, cooking and the like. teaching religion, working at their school affairs. teach by example, not by sitting in front of the television. taking a positive note, i think that we as a people will be around for the other person. some of us know an acquaintance who is a self professed atheist or agnostic, but this person will still have a strong desire to help the down and out person they meet. it takes all kinds but we as a people will help each of us get over this hurdle in our way. thanks

I was laid off three months ago (Jan. 15th). This time has be one of great reflection about how faith affects America's current economic crisis and what it will take to turn things around. Below are my thoughts.

“And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

The quote above is the last line of the Declaration of Independence, the historical document declaring the United States of America a sovereign nation. This phrase demonstrates the co-authors’ reliance or faith in a being greater than themselves. With this same faith we must once again mutually pledge our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor to shaping an America where all citizens endowed by their Creator can experience the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Declaration of Independence is such an intriguing document because it courageously addresses both the secular and spiritual nature of individuals and institutions. References to God, Creator, and Divine Providence demonstrate a belief in a being beyond human existence. There was a fervent hope in the ideas and beliefs conveyed in this foundational document. Faith compelled the “Founding Fathers” to pioneer the journey toward the American Dream.

This country must revive the journey began by the members of the Second Continental Congress (adopters of the Declaration of Independence) on July 4, 1776. Their faithful spirit must move beyond the sturdy walls of Congress to the fragile sidewalks of impoverished neighborhoods. People must regain faith in their dreams of every child receiving an education, every individual being financially stable, and their ability to construct a neighborhood that will be a beacon of hope for the nation.

As our country strives to recover from its current economic (perhaps socio-economic) crisis, many economic experts and pundits are in a frenzy offering grand, complicated solutions to the problem. It is really not that complicated. People have lost faith. Not just in institutions and markets as most experts suggest. But long before that people stop believing their dreams and aspirations would come to pass. As a result, individuals wait and hope for institutions to resolve society’s problems. Since institutions implement institutional solutions, we never get to the heart of the matter, individual faith.

Hope makes you wait. While faith makes you actively pursue. It is a person’s faith that makes them take steps toward their dreams. As people’s faith in something bigger, more powerful than themselves increases, we will draw closer to the dream of creating a nation where all people have the opportunities needed to succeed and thrive. More importantly, they no longer wait on institutions, but actively work to transform their internal faith into external realities. It is this Faith Stimulus, not just an economic stimulus, which will once again put our nation back on track toward the American Dream.

Who else better to lead this faith stimulus than the Faith Community. As the cornerstone of neighborhoods and local communities, Christian churches and organizations can direct the crusade of restoring hope to American citizens. America is not a nation of independent institutions but a society of diverse yet inextricably linked individuals. The fortitude of businesses and organizations is directly linked to the spiritual development of individuals. Restoring their faith and creating opportunities to maintain good works will stimulate community revitalization. By expending its spiritual capital, the Faith Community can rekindle the flames of faith ignited by the Declaration of Independence and produce an invaluable Faith Stimulus Package.

As you can tell from the above information I am both a transplant from the state of California and a 5 year resident of Fargo, ND. where we are experiencing unprecedented Red River flood conditions.

I sand-bagged along with many other residents and a lot of national guards people, and much of my time was spent/invested very productively because people were focused on sand-bagging and on saving their possessions and their city, this was truely preceived as a crisis.

However, when I have found myself in the company of people primarily concerned with the making of money or a "living" as some might call it, I have not found the focus quite as intense on accomplishing the larger goals.

Instead, because it seems to me that the U.S. is a hyper-religious culture when not engaged in efforts that directly effect people such as in a crisis situation people will begin to look for scapegoats in order to relieve stress by corporate bullying.

Such, it would seem, are the dynamics of group interaction where increasingly people sell their time and efforts cheaply and are forced to make impossible choices between eating and sleeping indoors.

Sadly, it would seem it takes a crisis of the Red River flood proportions to bring this kind of focus on the important to the fore.

My financial difficulties began a few years before the rest of the nation's. I was an editor at a children's publisher, enjoying a nice salary and respected position. But my soul was dying--from what I thought was the depravity I saw in the workplace. Unable to maintain my humanity in that environment--of devaluing people, manipulating and scheming--I quit and fled the situation. It was when I left that my transformation began. I started to realize that the real problem was in my heart. I had been choking my spirit for a very long time.

I experienced a total stripping down of all control that I imagined I had over my life. God had to take me down into total submission and start teaching me from scratch, as one does for a child or puppy (yes, puppy--I recently got one and, strange as it may seem, am seeing a lot of parallels in the God-human/human-puppy relationship). I still have no stable job, no health insurance, no financial security whatsoever. But an amazing change has happened in my heart. It softened. And I am feeling God deeper and deeper in my heart as each day passes.

I have definitely experienced this economic moment as a spiritual crisis, but feel I'm moving upward and out of the crisis into a new phase of living with conviction--motivated to move this way or that by love for God and others.

I read Exodus during my darkest times -- and I began listening to your SOF program. I wanted to tell you that God has been and still is speaking to me through SOF. Recently, I listened to the program about Quarks and Creation from 2006. It inspired me to start moving. You see, sometimes I still get so discouraged that I sit idle, waiting for God to do something. After listening to the program I was touched by what the guest said about how God works in our lives -- patiently, through processes more than through miracles and magic. I'm learning to take steps, to move, as my spirit and heart rests with God. And trust that he'll illuminate the better path.

Thank you for the work that you do--you have helped me so much.

This may be a completely different twist on the question, but we've started a job networking group that is offering more connection and community in the midst of the economic crisis.

For a really good rundown, please check out this article:

I'm happy to share more or put you in touch with others in the group.



Ken Grant

Forgive me but I have struggled with the SOF program recently and really struggled with Vigen Guroian easter experiences as "a call to our senses." I have a conservative evangelical background and now struggle with any discussion about the God of the Bible. Easter has no meaning for me whatsoever. I love any discussion of Tolle, Buddhism and Eastern religions. "A New Earth" is one of my favorite books. Thanks to SOF I'm currently reading "An End to Suffering, The Buddha in the World." Again, forgive me, but I expected so much more from the discussion of gardening. Sustainable, slow food, organic gardening is what is going to rescue our planet from a food crisis. Maybe I missed something but it seemed incredibly lite weight.

This economic moment is absolutely a moral and spiritual crisis. It's all about greed and short term gain. It's not about sustainability, the long term and helping your fellow man. I personally, do not reach out to the Christian tradition for answers though.

The Saturday morning Farmers Market is our new church. It's our community. My wife and I see friends and talk to the farmers that grow our food. Our meat farmers treat their animals humanely. Our produce farmers practice sustainability and avoid the monocultures of the large factory farms. Plus, we learn small ways to take care of ourselves and reduce our expenses while improving our health.

We want to cultivate living in the now, sustainability, recycling and helping the less fortunate. We want to cultivate reducing our carbon footprint and fighting for reduction in greenhouse gasses.

on the first Sunday after it became apparent that this was not just a downturn but a crisis, I opened our worship service at First UMC, a typical small-town Methodist church that i pastor, with my guitar, singing REM's "Its the End of the World As We Know It," the chorus of which ends with the line "and I feel fine" as our call to worship.

What had happened that week in my soul was that i had started with obsessing over my 401k and retirement funds. I even figured out how many days longer i had to work before i retired for every 1% the DJIA fell. (FYI - I will now feel lucky to retire at 85.) But by Friday of that week I had begun to care less about my monetary assets (and when i could retire) and began to understand a little more about what it means to rely on God. Even with the Dow out the window, I noticed that the sun kept coming up, my wife and my dogs still loved me, my cats and my children still ignored me, and that life went on more or less as usual. And I realized I had made money my functional savior. And that somehow or another, the huge drop in the markets had changed me. More "In God We Trust" and less "In Cash We Trust."

And I felt fine.

John Purdue

1. Let me start by saying this; Crisis is defined by Webster as:
a turning point, as in a sequence of events, for better or for
Having said this I must admit that it has most definitely affected
my spiritual/moral center in a most positive way! I cannot
remember a time when I have been more blessed. Living the American
dream for me, you know, having 'stuff', was fun until I realized
that what I had been wanting all along was to truly know myself.
My God self. My true self. This economic downturn has shown me in
a physical way that wanting and having in a physical way is surely
temporary. Only when we want and have what is within ourselves can
we know peace.

2. We have consistently been faced with those times when we can step
up and help another. In today's world, we can sometimes be
overwhelmed with them. Listen to intuition, let it guide you. You
will know what to do or say to that someone who needs what only
you can offer. Opportunity is knocking folks!

3. All of them! We would be sub-human otherwise! Think about it..

4. Exactly what we are supposed to be. How many times has a situation
come up with another person where you are thinking, "Man, what a
jerk" only to realize later that what happened between you
actually made a huge difference to you or them or both!

Presently, our faith community is seeking to address these pressing issues. Motivated by this quote from an overheard economist: “We have behaved so badly, in our savings, our spending, our debt, that we now have to go through an economic reset.” -- we having been discussing our need to hit the reset button relationally, spiritually and economically. However, though our conversation this past week about the Jesus-story found in Luke 12:13-21, we are realizing that reset might not be the best term. What we need is more like a reorientation. How can we reset to values that we have never possessed. Sourced in this story, we developed three 'mantras' of sorts. Already, I find myself filtering my choices through these small bits of wisdom.


Thanks for tackling these issues.

Spiritual intelligence is the sum of all forms of intelligence: analytical, intuitive, creative, cultural, biological (including the functions of the triune brain), moral. To be spiritual is to so live that all forms of intelligence are congruent, harmonious, synergistic. The tragedy of human beings is that this spiritual awakening of harmonious intelligence is so rare. In most persons there are degrees of harmonized function, but never to the degree necessary for us to produce a human world that is balanced and fulfilling for all humans.

One of our spiritual shortcomings is the economy we have evolved, sometimes labeled a "capitalist", or "free market" economy. While clever analytical minds can construct a dizzying array of methods for profiting from this system, the notion that avarice, greed, materialistic lust, untempered by moral regulation, can be generative of economic outcomes beneficial to everyone is tragically absurd. And despite the frequent, historic, periodic collapses of such an economic system, with great losses of production, losses of wealth, losses of jobs, with great damage to the lives and livelihood of millions of people, we persist, unintelligently, with the notion, that the "free market"--unregulated by the moral conscience of people gained through painful experience, and exercised through the agency of governance--can help us achieve a healthy world order where hunger and homelessness is eliminated, unnecessary sickness alleviated, and humans enabled to achieve their highest good everywhere. This is the spiritual disorder that capitalism represents, this is the perpetual spiritual crisis that goes back hundreds of years--to the time when Christians, and other so-called religious people, enslaved Africans, dispossessed Native Americans, subjugated women to domesticity, employed and abused child workers, and mistreated adult workers.
The latest episodic economic collapses--Enron, WorldCom, Wall Street Investment Banks, AIG, Automobile Manufacturers, Bernie Madoff--are simply part of the failure to integrate our predatory economic brain, with our moral, spiritual intelligence. The collapse of the automobile manufacturers are exemplary of particular kind of economic and spiritual failure, the inability to comprehend that human economies are subsets of the larger world ecology, ecology being the economy of nature. Pushing for greater profits by building bigger, gas guzzling SUV's irrespective of considerations of global pollution, and oil depletion, was not only stupid, but revelatory of the mindset of corporations and their CEO's--immediate profits over long-term concern for the world condition, including the natural world. This is not only immoral, but ultimately unprofitable.

And yet, one hears little conversation about the spiritual lessons to be gleaned from this economic crisis. That, to me, is also revelatory. We are not as moral, or as spiritual, as we like to think.

If this is the best that we can do, humanity is in deep trouble.

I have a tri-fold vocation as a writer, an organic farmer, and the director of graduate ministry programs at Saint Meinrad, a large Benedictine monastery and Roman Catholic school of theology in southern Indiana. I certainly see the current economic situation as a crisis, in the root sense of that word: a judgment, and a moment where individuals and the culture face a decision about new paths forward.

Living on a solar-and wind-powered farm in a rural area, I'm pulled in two different directions, which I've come to see as complimentary. On one hand is the temptation to "hunker down" on our farm, turning inward, focusing on being as self-sufficient as possible, and cultivating these qualities of ruggedness and independence in our three children. On the other, both among our rural neighbors and the burgeoning number of students in the ministry program I run, I feel the desire--on my part and others'--to turn outward, in service, vulnerability, and mutual dependence.

Somehow, I think both of these tensions can and must coexist as part of a new way forward. We must cultivate new forms of asceticism as both a practical and a spiritual discipline, such that we actually can simplify our lives and thus be less dependent on all of the systems that have been unmasked as wobbly and unreliable. And yet any real independence from these will always mean dependence on what is ultimately far more reliable: the love, care, skill, and good work of people whose lives intersect with ours. Grace, forgiveness, patience and love span the tension between these poles.

I write about these issues regularly for America, a weekly publication of the Jesuits: If my story is of interest to you, I'd also be happy to share my experience in an audio interview in the Repossessing Virtue series.

My hope for each of us is that we give thought to what "sustainability" means. Perhaps to do that we need to give more honor to the virtue of prudence. I have spent many years studying for a graduate degree in biology, and, as a mother, have become aware of the limits of our influence as well as the limited supply of our natural resources.
It is difficult to assess the popularity of "mini mansions" that have sprung up, each on its own 5 or 10 acres of grass. Grass, for heaven's sake! How much energy--human or fossil fuel--do they plan to spend each week keeping it all looking beautiful? To say nothing of washing windows and paying the cleaning bills on all that beautiful stuff in the 6,000 sq.ft. house?
Where and when did we get so acquisitive? Taking care of the house would seem to be much more important that taking care of or having fun with each other.
I used to tell my kids that it all started because logs floated. That made them easy to harvest, so they could be used to make paper, and without paper we could not sustain a huge economy. This was obviously before computers & e-mail replaced books, letters, envelopes and the USMail. Who will we be for each other? We must be friends and neighbors, using our talents to help each other enjoy what we have, and put the "we can have it all" world view behind us.

I am an aging single female, dependent on a pension and Social Security. I am lucky to have both; I fear for both. I live in a facility for the elderly which is a primary community for me. I think we have more than one. Several here have suffered losses great enough so they must leave, and finding places they can afford is proving difficult. At least one goes to live with a relative as a dependent. A relative of mine is seeking a place to live. If I have information that might help, I try to share it. Otherwise I try to listen.

The voices of the 5/17/09 program are asking the same questions and finding some of the same answers I found years ago when I had breast cancer. That experience changed my life and became defined as a gift. That was 14 years ago.

My current immediate crisis is again one of health, although that links heavily with the economic. I find I am again asking basic questions: Who am I? What can I do to be of value and to feel of value? How can I be of service? How can I better express love and compassion? What is mine to do?

Those voices on the program reinforced my belief in cycles. I feel a new sense of urgency now, however. Partly this is my age; partly, my perspective on the planet. If this life is like attending school, I want to graduate. I hope the planet and others on it can and will as well.

Listening to Repossessing Virtue, I've heard a lot about living in community and relying on others, and this past year, I have found myself having to rely on others more and being more comfortable with it.

I recently graduated from college and found myself without a short term plan. I love to travel, so I decided to reconnect with many of my college friends who were at this point scattered across the country. I sent out a number of emails asking if I could stay with people on my trip and I was astounded with the enthusiasm that I received in most cases. I spent 40 days last fall, hopping from one friend's couch to another, and it made me realize that often times all we have to do is ask.

This coming fall, I will be living in Chicago, and I will be sending out a different kind of email. This time, I'll be asking old friends to come stay with me.

I am experiencing this economic moment as a spiritual opportunity. I entered my story in the Intuit Competition. I am very moved to talk about the economy. Here is the address of that essay.

Of course, I violated all of the rules, I don't think this is what they were looking for at all. I have not been contacted with the news that I am a finalist, but I felt I had to write something.

I am very blessed to be living in a real NEIGHBORHOOD, where many of us are keeping an eye on each other, where we share food with one another.

I look for leadership in my choir, and among the people of my Church family, who have also been very helpful to me. At the same time, I provide leadership. I will ask for and accept help. I will talk about what is happening with me. I will listen to what is happening with someone else. I think that there are very few leaders available, and that it is everybody's duty to see if they might provide leadership in the place where they all.

I use choir as a model of leadership all of the time. In choir, I am a leader in my section. If there is a very exposed alto entrance, I can be relied upon to come in, on time. People usually join me, just a split-second later. At the same time, I must always be listening, because it is a choir, not a solo, and I rely on the rest of the choir, just as they rely on me. I rely on the director to keep time faithfully, and to help us rehearse so that we have all the tools we need to come in on time.

And that is true of leadership in general. A leader relies on everybody else, but the leader accepts the exposure. The exposure of coming in first, the exposure of starting out alone. It would be better, especially in a choir, if everyone came in at the same time, and usually they do, but there are still those entrances that frighten people, because they don't understand them well, don't understand the timing well, and they don't want to make a mistake. It is a responsibility.

Now, more than ever, we need more leaders, more people willing to take risk and responsibility. More people who will stand up for "the right thing" whatever that may be, wherever they may experience it. Less crowd mentality, and more willingness to listen to the less popular view. We need to lead where we are able and to follow where we must.

I am concerned with the obsession to follow the advice of experts. It is not that we must each go out and reinvent the wheel, but the reason a choir works is because all of the members of the choir, including the director, have the same goal. Not necessarily true of all the popular experts that people chase after.

Sorry, this rambles...I do love the show. And there's more, but I'll save that for later....

It is an economic crisis, but at root I think it is a spiritual crisis. We kill 4,000 human beings each business day in abortion: decapitated, dismembered, burned alive human beings. This economic crisis will make us realize how much we need people, to rejoice in life, and to repent of this killing. I hope. It took the Civil War to end slavery.

(Hyperlocavore is a free yard sharing community I built to help friends, family, neighbors and faith communities to grow more food closer to home so that we can all eat better, live in neighborhoods that nurture us, learn the value of barn raising, rent parties and caring about each other.)

I am not a 'faithful' person, but if I had to be pressed I would have to say I have faith in human creativity and power to choose wisely. Perhaps this comes from living through three disasters and seeing people express the best in themselves each time in the face of fear.

“Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

One of the most useful things I have ever learned in my life is that the most effective way to deal with worry and anxiety is to act on those things in your life that you can control, and leave the rest up to the Universe. Some call it the “Serenity Prayer.” Whatever you believe in or do not believe in, knowing just what you can control in your life and what you cannot is the key to your joy. This much I know.

Everyday we are presented with immense rolling overlapping catastrophes, environmental devastation, societal malaise and violence, running out of the stuff that we are told underpins our every creature comfort - oil. All of these things are true. That hand basket you’ve heard so much about, we riding in it!

How do we “carry on”, as the Brits used to say. Well, I’m not at all interested in “carrying on” actually. Nose down, joy in check, plodding and miserable. I want to thrive. I was raised with mighty high expectations of what this life can be, and I’m not giving those expectations up. I want to reach the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I want to love and live well. And I want to eat REALLY well. I got used to that in the 1990’s.

Well, first I would like to suggest some humility, for many on the planet, this rolling crisis has been their daily experience for as long as they have lived. It is nothing new. Check in with yourself. What are you grateful for? What have you been given in life by your community, your family, your beloveds, your friends and your neighbors, by this Earth? You can read this. There must be someone who taught you to read. Take a moment. Sit with your gratitude.

That’s where I began when I built - a free yard sharing community, sitting with gratitude. I had just been laid off. It was April. I had been a tech strategy person at a 35 year old sustainability non-profit that had been fighting the good fight as long as I had been on the planet. I took an inventory…

OK. Stop. Honestly? I can’t lie. First, I felt terror. Then, blind rage with a dollop of total panic. Boiling blood, fist shaking, laying curses on all who had done me wrong - all that. That lasted for a few months, if I tell the truth. Then there was a substantial period of pouting and just feeling so sad for myself. My poor pitiful sorry self. That got old really fast. I bore easily. And I got bored with myself behaving that way, pretty quickly.

When I moved on, it was via gratitude. Sitting with and contemplating all that I was and am grateful for, after all the crying, bargaining and bemoaning had subsided. What did I have, well besides the sweatpants I had been wearing for a few weeks? I am literate and reasonably intelligent, if broke. I have knowledge that people can band together and build amazing fantastical giant things, cities even, because I’ve been part of a community that does that for more than a decade now. I speak of the Burning Man festival and year round astounding creative beautiful community made of doers. I believe I write well enough.

And I have an good idea that has been bugging me since I was about 5. I used to look at the inside of city blocks in San Francisco and wonder, why the heck were the yards all fenced off, in the middle and mostly unused. Why not, I thought way back then, tear those fences down and build a garden full of fruit trees, nut trees and veggie patches? Why don’t people grow food there?

I am grateful that I grew up in the Silicon Valley, a place that fed my voracious curiosity and kept me tinkering. I am grateful for growing up in the Bay Area, a place absolutely crammed with practical minded revolutionaries and doing daring dreamers. The rest of the country seems to think the only thing we gave them was tie-dye and 4 foot bongs, but they would be mistaken. The Bay Area is a place that teaches everyone “Why Not?” A society of people that does not let you just talk about a good idea without telling you, in chorus, to “DO IT!” It is tough to get away with a lot moaning and jaw flapping in a place like that.

Yard sharing is all about being grateful for what you have, not anxious about what you don’t. It’s about responding practically to chaos, to the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns. Never in all my life did I think I would quote Donald Rumsfeld but, there you are. These are strange days, indeed!

You do know these things for sure. You know you need healthy food and you know you need it cheap. So do all your friends and neighbors, the members of your faith communities, so does your slacker posse. So does your family. Doing for yourself, deepening your food security and your community resilience is the most direct thing you can do to bring your rational and general anxiety down to a manageable size. Sit down to a meal that you grew yourself from seeds which you saved, bread you baked, eggs you gathered, and you will know in your bones that you and yours will be alright.

We get new people signing up to the social network every single day, practical people looking to get down to business. I built the site because lots of people don’t have all resources or skills they need to grow their own. Some of us lack time, some lack space, some have physical limitations, or lack certain tools. Some have so little experience growing things that the task seems overwhelming. Where do you start? All of these issues can be minimized in a well gathered and tended yard sharing group, a healthy community.

Some folks are linking up yards and creating mini suburban farm/CSAs, like Kipp Nash in Boulder, Colorado. Each family gets a weekly box of the freshest produce and the rest he sells at the farmers market. If this looks like the job for you, come on by the site and find some farm clients and yards to tend! Kipp’s got eight yards he is farming. Will you ever look at a lawn again in the same way? When I see a sad lone Honey-Doer on a loud riding mower all I see is wasted space, wasted water and meaningless work.

Green thumbs will appear and share the secrets of plant whispering, food waste will be gathered from multiple households and make a formidable sweet smelling compost pile. Friends will band together to buy 3 year old apple trees, for a lifetime of apples. Abuelitas will pass on magic recipes and kids will coax worms to party in warm living soil. Their curiosity will catch fire! Streets will become neighborhoods, neighbors will become friends. No one will feel alone, frozen or powerless, because no one will be alone, frozen or powerless. Potlucks will abound! All will eat better.

This is the future we see, us hyperlocavores. We know it’s coming, because we’re building it right now. Who has time to fret? Pass the cornbread and fresh salsa. Look someone brought the boom box!

Our great great grandparents used to have victory gardens but, they also had rent parties. Londoners danced in underground tunnels as fire came down from the sky. They stayed put. They raised rent, barns and kids together. They didn’t just survive, many of them thrived. I hope we will all use this compound crisis as a reminder that the hard times are very often the very best of times. Take note of what you have, be grateful for your loved ones. Take note of those around you that may feel alone. They are not and you are not, alone.

We each of us every moment of the day will choose our responses to what’s happening. Some will choose to go numb, watch more TV, play more video games, surf mindlessly. Some will chose hate, rage, to nurse grievances and will choose take their pain out on the people around them, the people they love most in this world.

Will you choose another day of fear, of distrust, anger or powerlessness, of envy and isolation or will you choose the plentiful garden, the neighborhood, real community, real food and pleasure?



“There’s only two things that money can’t buy,
That’s true love and homegrown tomatoes!”

- Guy Clark
I would add ‘real community’ to that list of things money can’t buy.
I choose real community, dancing in the chaos, pleasure, delectable food and the edible and musical neighborhood.

Happy Digging!
Liz McLellan

Thank you for a wonderful radio show and forum. Your listeners are great people.

I am currently working on a packet of materials to help faith communities get yard sharing programs going so please get in touch if this is of interest.

I am seeing this crisis as a wonderful opportunity we are given, that is pressing the "Reset" button. It may be triggered more visibly by a financial or economic crisis, but I see more than that. The economic impact is signaling that we have been doing many things wrong: our priorities, our way to be with each other, our habits and behaviors that we came to call "modern, progressive, the way it is" have generated a negative impact on our environment, our communities and on our deeper self. All these impacts are slow, the time lapse between what we do and its effect is not obvious, and as a consequence we are myopic to the consequences of our behaviors. Now that we are experiencing the consequences, we may be lucky to react and begin connecting the dots, and start doing things differently.
The good news is that - given a little silence to listen to our wisdom inside, we all know exactly what to do.

Dear Krista,

Yes, I am challenged to forgive humans I have found myself hating since my own Mother began abusing me 48 years ago. Abuse became habitual,so the feelings of hatred grew like normal human feelings do.

I was not allowed to protest my mistreatment. I had no alternative than to stuff my human voice and the feelings of anger,resentment,and desire for retribution that accompany judgmentalism,being manipulated by false guilt,being made the object of projected and displaced rage as my Mother struggled to project the "normal" and therefore "healthy" nuclear family.

My Mother was a very damaged human being and she found trust seemingly impossible for most of her life. I know that trust is something I was trained to give away without regard to who was asking the questions. I also know this has been very detremental to my own growth because humans appear to be very immature and have taken advantage of almost every vulnerability I have expressed.

I know I was sick because I continued to want to trust even the people who hurt me the most--my own family of origin--and those I learned through culture were "trustworthy", when I often discovered through direct experience that quite the opposite was true.

I have,over the course of the last 20 years, had to unlearn the many sick ways of relating to society forced upon me by my own Mother and the society that looked the other way as she continued to abuse me.

Nobody,it seems, was willing to stand up to her rants and rages.

Actually, there aren't any qualities of human nature I want to cultivate personally because I now believe as a 51 year old that most of them are toxic in nature...leading only to disenchantment, disagreement and ultimately....divorce.

Who we will be for each other is something I think each of us must determine for him/her-self.

As for me, I would like to be thought a good husband,a good father(I love little kids and their unadulterated perspective), a good provider for a family, and to live out the rest of my life trying to make my girlfriend,fiancee,and wife always look twice as intelligent as she is, while I hope one of her major aims is to make me look a whole lot more attractive than I know myself to be.

Thanks for reading, Raul Armas

First, let me say that I applaud this program. It is sorely needed. It is a wonderful program which deals, appropriately, with a world which is complex, spiritual and not as reduced to sound bites as this corrupted culture and its handlers would have us believe.

I am experiencing this economic situation as a spiritual crisis which I believe is a divine unfolding. I believe this country was given untold blessings and benefits, which a narcisstic and corrupt few, aided by weak leaders, crashed this country economically, culturally, morally.

I have tried to cultivate kindness, generosity of spirit, honesty, and some altruism.

There is no basis for trusting any more in this society. It is decadent and corrupt. Extreme individualism at the expense of the many has overtaken and destroyed what was life sustaining in this culture.

I think there are places of community. Not many.

We do not know who we will be for one another. We need a transfiguration of this society, to go back to the strengths of our 17th century leaders who did understand what "society" and "community" and "e pluribus unum" meant, minus their prejudices and elitism.

We need to recreate a "creative" and "creating" culture with a means of production. Naomi Klien and Mr. Grider have proposed ideas with merit.

Without means of production, a reinvention of agriculture, the turning of our factories (what is left) to new production, and the moving away of basic living (such as health care) from profit, is the only way we will find redemption. Otherwise, we will perish or life will become so miserable for most people that it will not be worth living here.

I don't have any answers to the above questions, but would like to let you know that I quit my job as a County Health Nurse to pursue a position as a Parish Nurse. I went from a fairly lucritive income to no income at all. The position (Parish Nurse) was made known to me the day I planned to take my life by drowning in Lake Ontario.

I've been an RN for 12 years. The only way I saw to make a difference in People's lives was to get as close to the top rung of the ladder as possible (You know, to develop policies and have the power to make things happen). I reached the top as Director of Nursing and found out, it wasn't good enough. There is no "good enough" in our puny human terms. The Lord gave me an avenue that fulfills all of his needs for the people in my little community. Parish Nursing is an old idea, renewed by need, in our modern time. I drove 130 miles, one way, for five days to become a Parish Nurse. My official beginning was today and I've already had 2 people in Pulaski, N.Y., ask for help. It is an incredible experience to help when you know there is no $ in it, and, you realize the people you have just seen are not trying to take advantage of your services, but are really trying to better their lives so that they may also be a strength for others.

The above paragraph makes my attempt for planning suicide really insignificant!

God had other plans for our community and decided that I was to be a part of those plans.

I'm grateful to be alive, renewed, restored and given a purpose in this world.

The only image I have to send you is of the place where I was going to go into the water. I'm not sure you really want that.

Thank you for your time,

Esther Keeney, RN

This economic moment can't be separated from the spiritual moment. Life is a spiritual journey. Every choice we make, economic or otherwise, creates the reality we live in. We the, individual person, is the creator of what we call our reality.
The point I would like to make is that we as a whole are looking at this moment from a perspective that can only make the human condition harder for everyone. First, I would point out that government is not the solution to this problem, its the cause. Wall Street and Washington in bed together etc., Almost everyone would agree that this is the equation.
President Obama said that the most important thing is to fix the banking, economic system (capitalism), I respectfully disagree, the most important thing is the human condition, and our planet. Even one individual is more important than all the money in the world. And we as a tribe daily sacrifice individuals for the greater good of the economy.
All of the so call problems of the human race are based on one factor that no one will address, human population: Until we address this issue we will continue to pollute, destroy, and suffer from its consequences. We just need a human-planet equation that works for both. And we don't need to send people off to the gas chambers or kill anyone to create this balance.
Government, money, the economic system, are not natural phenomena, they are created and controlled by people. And those people that control these situations could create any outcome they desire. The question becomes, why do they (we) desire this particular outcome?
If we as individuals would focus on growing food, self-sufficiency, and taking responsibility for giving our power away, and taking responsibility for what we have created, we will be on our way to creating another reality.
We as a species have the technological ability to make this world into a garden of Eden, if we choose, or we can continue to create the hell we have created in certain places.
The choice is in the moment and is ours.
Thank you

The economic downturn seems to be a spiritual regrouping brought about by less-than-moral belief systems and consequences that have dominated our societies for too long a period.
As a tenured teacher and single, sole-supporter, mother of a young adult daughter, I recall my days growing up in an extended family with grandparents, parents, sharing a home, responsibilities, love, stories, joys and challenges. The interdependence, the flow of relationships in familial community is something that "old world" societies still wisely maintain. Extended families are common in other parts of the world, mostly for economic but also for cultural reasons.
As I grow older, (I am now 56 years old), my parents are no longer living and I have come to realize the profound value that living in the family community has had on my life, my focus, my development. In Western societies and in particular, the U.S., we have been indoctrinated to equate extended family living with "lack of independence" and "inconvenience". Instead, I suggest that the perspective has long needed to change. Instead of perceiving others as "inconvenience", we explore deeper into those human and spiritual values constituting our "essence" and learn to value relationships within our own life journey. Indeed, by so doing, we may not only save money, but we may find that we save a part of our spirit as well by enriching each other. I have downsized to a smaller apartment and now, seeking to provide a home for my daughter and myself, I will attempt to become a first-time home buyer with a small, modest home purchase.
The qualities that are necessary for myself and my daughter, as well as the students I teach and all whom I have been blessed to meet revolve around empathy for each other. An analogy I have often used is that when you look deeply into the eyes of the "other" and are able to see your own reflection, you have truly been able to connect with the spiritual nature of us all. This quality of empathic awareness, I believe, is not limited to religion, age, economic, social or cultural persuasion,ethnicity, race, gender, or any other qualifying category. Instead, it is purely a spiritual evolution that is connecting those of like mind and heart to transcend boundaries that have been instrumental in dividing us. It is this kind of awareness that leads to action with and for others, and eventually to a life full of joy, of peace and therein the discovery of God and Spirit. This is the vision I hold for myself and for others of kindred spirit. This is who I pray we will be for each other.


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